Cheryl Holder, MD
Florida State Medical Association
-The Florida State Medical Association proposes a plan of action-
MIAMI – The Florida State Medical Association (FSMA), a representative organization of the National Medical Association (NMA), the oldest organization of African American professionals representing African American physicians, has requested to meet with Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss and develop a viable action plan to address the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Florida’s Black residents.
Undeniably, Florida’s Black community, which includes those from the Caribbean and Africa, suffer with high rates of chronic diseases. They also experience social and economic conditions that affect their ability to protect themselves properly from COVID-19. Many hold low-wage occupations such as home health care attendants, delivery drivers, grocery store clerks, and custodial workers that increase their exposure to infected individuals. Other disadvantages include:
- many live in small multigenerational homes limiting their ability to practice social distancing if symptomatic
- many utilize public transportation
- many have minimal funds to purchase sufficient food, hand sanitizers, masks, and thermometers, and
- many do not have health insurance, further delaying access to medical care.
Because of the diversity of the Black population in Florida, there is a need to develop a comprehensive and targeted messaging effort so that information about the COVID-19 infection can be effectively disseminated. It is the desire of the Florida State Medical Association to utilize mainstream media as well as including outside sources such as cultural newspapers and magazines, social media avenues, community activists, public school students, and local entertainers. These efforts will help to put a process in place to effectively communicate the latest information regarding COVID-19 to Black audiences statewide. Additionally, other recommendations on testing, supporting physician practices, and protection for other vulnerable populations will be addressed.
As of April 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported there were 427,460 cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the United States, which resulted in 14,696 deaths. There is evidence that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected African American and other Black communities (such as Haitian and Caribbean) in the United States.
There is an impending danger to the lives of African Americans posed by this virus, NMA President Oliver Brooks wrote on March 30 in BlackPressUSA.com.
Brooks wrote: “At present the CDC has noted that those with chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, the immunocompromised, including people living with HIV, those on cancer treatment, the severely obese, diabetics with renal failure, or those with liver disease, are at higher risk for severe illness.”
Brooks continued that this warning should be clearly heard by the African American community. “We are 2.2 times more likely to have diabetes, 20% more likely to have high blood pressure, and 30% more likely to be obese. Furthermore, the incidence of COPD (lung disease) in our women is 34% higher than in white women. Bottom line, if we acquire this virus, bad things are more likely to happen.”
To help share this important message throughout our communities and to our leaders in Tallahassee, FSMA also reached out many well-respected healthcare professional organizations, including the Northeast Medical Society, the National Medical Association, the Miami Chapter of Black Nurses Association and the Association for Haitian Physicians Abroad, and have received their support.
The Florida State Medical Association (FSMA) recommends the following steps to help combat and reduce COVID-19 among Florida’s black residents:
- As a trusted healthcare voice within the community, FSMA will be a key stakeholder in the planning of the COVID-19 response.
- Conduct more robust data collection and reporting, including race.
- Increase access to testing: 1) expand the number of testing sites in African American/Black neighborhoods and conduct rapid testing, 2) update testing guidelines to include symptomatic individuals regardless of age, 3) include walk-up testing at all sites in operation, and 4) deploy mobile testing units, with onsite screening without a doctor’s referral.
- Increase public education and outreach efforts in African American and all other Black communities, and include materials in Creole for Haitian residents in Florida. This includes engaging and funding community organizations to educate the community on COVID-19.
- Increase the availability of PPE (personal protective equipment) for Black physicians, healthcare, environmental, non-clinical, and other low-wage workers.
- Maintain the viability of small private physicians’ practices and Federally Qualified Health Centers, including frontline support staff that provide healthcare in the African American and Black communities.
About the Florida State Medical Association
Who We Are: The Florida State Medical Association, a representative organization of the National Medical Association (NMA) includes over 2,000 physicians in Florida.
What We Do: We are a collective voice of African American physicians and their leading force for parity and justice in medicine.
For more information on the FSMA, contact Dr. Cheryl Holder via Black PR Wire at 1-877-BLACKPR.
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